Email shows Loudoun County School Board knew about sexual assault the day it happened

If you’ve been following this story then you already know the background but for those who haven’t here’s a very brief version. On May 28 a male student wearing a skirt entered a girl’s bathroom at a school in Loudoun County, Virginia and sexually assaulted a freshman girl. The girl’s father, Scott Smith, came to the school and caused a scene which led to police being called. Jump forward a few weeks to June 22 and Scott Smith went to a Loudoun County school board meeting where parents were objecting to a new bathroom policy which would allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

During this meeting, the school superintendent, Scott Ziegler, specifically stated that there had been no assaults in school bathrooms that he was aware of. One member of the school board corrected him.

At a June 22 board meeting focused on a transgender policy that affects bathrooms, school board member Beth Barts asked if there were sexual assaults in the bathrooms regularly, and Ziegler responded that he didn’t have record of any occurring.

Barts noted that Ziegler’s comment failed to reflect a 2018 locker room assault, which she pointed out involved all male players, thus highlighting that assaults can occur whether or not transgender students are present.

But thanks to WTOP, we now know that Ziegler, Barts and every other member of the board were aware of the May assault in a high school bathroom. Here’s a screenshot of the full email sent by Ziegler himself to the other board members on May 28, the same day the assault happened.

It reads in part, “The purpose of this email is to provide you with information regarding an incident that occurred at Stone Bridge HS. This afternoon a female student alleged that a male student sexually assaulted her in the restroom.”

Granted the email doesn’t include a lot of detail and doesn’t mention any names but the basic information is there. A female student assaulted by a male student in a high school bathroom. So how is it possible that just over three weeks later, Ziegler could claim he didn’t have any record of any sexual assaults in school bathrooms? And when he did make that claim, why did board member Beth Barts only bring up the incident from 2018 and not the one from three weeks earlier? Why didn’t any other members of the board mention the recent assault?

Last week, Loudoun County Public Schools released a written statement which claimed the board had not been informed about the “specific details” of the incident: [emphasis added]

“School Board members are typically not given details of disciplinary matters. The board may be obligated to consider long-term suspensions or expulsions and must ensure that students have not been deprived of due process. Consequently, members of the Loudoun County School Board were not aware of the specific details of this incident until it was reported in media outlets earlier this week,” the statement said.

In retrospect, this statement looks very intentionally misleading, almost Clintonian. Any normal person reading it would assume the board didn’t know about the assault until they read about it in the press. But what it actually says is that they didn’t know the specific details. That leaves wiggle room for them knowing the general outlines of what happened without openly saying that. Indeed, when LCPS released the email today, they also released a brief statement trying to make the contents of the email jibe with their previous statement:

In the message, board members were informed in a general fashion that an alleged incident took place and that the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was conducting an investigation of the incident.

As LCPS has stated, the School Board was not provided specific details or the names of those involved…The School Board had not been provided any specific information regarding this matter from the LCPS staff prior to the June 22, 2021 meeting or at any point thereafter until the recent news reports were published.

They are doing their best to square this circle but it just doesn’t work. The issue brought up during the June board meeting didn’t require the board to know names or details. All they needed to know is what was in that email, i.e. a female had alleged an assault by a male in a high school bathroom.

The Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak notes today that Ziegler and other board members tried to offer various explanations for their silence about the May assault during the June board meeting:

After The Daily Wire reported this month that the suspect had been transferred to another school where he allegedly sexually assaulted another girl in a classroom, Ziegler apologized for what he acknowledged was a “misleading” remark, claiming he thought the question was whether there had been any bathroom assaults involving transgender students. That apology only raised more questions, since the May assailant was allegedly wearing a skirt, and since Barts’ follow-up question had made clear in the moment that the question was not limited to transgender incidents.

Board members, including Barts and Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser, put out statements following The Daily Wire’s October 11 story that said that “members of the Loudoun County School Board were not aware of the specific details of the incident until earlier this week.” But the email shows that they seemingly would have had reason to know that Ziegler’s assertion of no record of sexual assaults in bathrooms was false.

So, Barts and Reaser put out a misleading statement matching the LCPS statement above, i.e. they didn’t know the “specific details.” Again, the email Ziegler sent on May 28 doesn’t mention anything about the male student being transgender so it’s possible he and the board didn’t know about that aspect of the incident. But my experience is that people talk about incidents like this outside of official channels. The fact that there isn’t an email chain about this does not mean they didn’t know the details until the press accounts came out months later. I bet lots of people heard the details long before that.

In any case, the fact remains that Barts’ question at the meeting was about bathroom assaults and was not limited to assaults by transgender people. She herself made that clear when she followed up by mentioning the 2018 assault in which only males had been involved. So even if you choose to believe that Superintendent Ziegler was confused by her question, what is Barts’ excuse? What about the rest of the board? Why did they all remain quiet about this recent and highly relevant assault?

Let me take this one more step. Let’s be really generous and assume the board members knew about the May assault but didn’t want to mention it because charges hadn’t yet been brought. Even if you believe that’s true, why would you affirmatively claim that there had only been one bathroom assault since 2018? In other words, if you know there’s an assault under investigation as you speak, one which may be relevant to the discussion you’re having, wouldn’t you at least tread lightly on the claim that such assaults don’t happen?

The only explanation that makes sense here is that Ziegler and the entire board were confident this was going to remain a secret. And that would match up with what father Scott Smith said about repeatedly being told he needed to remain quiet if he wanted justice for his daughter. And who knows, if Smith hadn’t been arrested at the board meeting and the male student hadn’t committed a second assault at another school, it really might have remained under wraps.

Finally, Ed reminds me that Ziegler was legally obligated to report this incident to the Board of Education. Now we know that he knew about it the day it happened and yet it seems he didn’t report it. At a certain point, it’s pretty hard to avoid the idea that the entire board was engaged in a cover-up. Maybe that helps explain why Beth Barts has already resigned from her job. As it stands now, Ziegler and the rest of the board should join her.